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Canmore Planning Commission approves variances for new car dealership location

“I would hypothesize based on my own experience if bike parking is not provided, there is probably not much incentive for people to be choosing that mode to get to work due to concerns about bike storage among other reasons.”

CANMORE – A pair of buildings along Bow Valley Trail will give a new home to the Wolfe Canmore dealership and a two-storey commercial space.

Canmore’s planning commission approved six variances ranging from increasing the height of both buildings, adding more parking spots and expanding the number of short- and long-term bike stalls.

While many of the variances were minor in nature, the bulk of the 90-minute discussion revolved around short- and long-term bike parking at the site, particularly with the goals of Town policies to promote more active modes of transit.

Several commission members raised issues with the lack of both short- and long-term bike parking spots, which ultimately led to an amended condition of requiring more bike spots, but still fewer than needed under the Town’s land use bylaw.

“I do share concerns about long-term parking stalls in building A because the variance is quite significant and I think the intent of the mode shift policy of the Town is to encourage people to change habits,” said commission member Florian Jungen. “If most of the employees of the business are currently driving to work the intention of the policy is to change those habits, so I think we could add or amend some of the conditions … and let the applicant determine how they best can accommodate that.”

The commission ultimately approved a modified schedule of conditions that required 26 long-term bike spots – including eight at the dealership – that would be confirmed during the building permit stage after eight had been requested. There would be 20 short-term spots, which was still fewer than the 67 short-term and 55 long-term stalls required under the land use bylaw for the gross floor requirement.

Among the variances were an increased building height, a minimum ceiling height, 45 parking spots including a minimum of three barrier-free spots, more shrubs but fewer trees and a variance for building design and proposed colours.

Miranda Spessot, a public commission member, brought attention to the significant gap in what was required in Town policy and what was being asked for with short-term stalls only about 30 per cent and long-term spots roughly 15 per cent of the requirement.

“To me, that seems like a very significant gap. I can respect the current employees might choose a particular mode,” she said. “I would hypothesize based on my own experience if bike parking is not provided, there is probably not much incentive for people to be choosing that mode to get to work due to concerns about bike storage among other reasons.”

Mitchell Martens, representative for Wolfe Canmore and a municipal liaison with Rick Balbi Architect, highlighted as part of the General Motors Corporation the dealership has to follow specific design guidelines.

“These dealerships are subject to very strict design programs and providing specific spaces for long-term bike parking was not feasible, so certain spaces we designed would be able to accommodate the room for long-term bike parking it would just not be officially shown on our plans,” he said.

Martens said the same staff would be working at the dealership and the majority of staff drive to work as opposed to cycling.

Commission member Brian Talbot echoed Martens in that the design criteria needed to be followed by the dealership were strict, but the business could “adapt to changing requirements of staff in terms of bike parking or vehicle parking and will adapt and potentially bring bikes into the facility like everyone else in town.”

Martens said there may not be specific bike parking rooms inside the dealership building, “but it’s not to say there’s not room within other service areas in the building to store those.”

Though it may be the case now, Coun. Tanya Foubert – one of council’s two representatives on the commission – said planning for the future is key in making decisions.

“I know there’s some assumptions about how these stalls are going to be used, but that’s based on the uses inside the buildings, not the choices being made by the people who choose to bike,” she said. “That is, I think, a future consideration we should have.”

A staff report stated the application aligned with both the Municipal Development Plan and the Bow Valley area redevelopment plan since “it is a larger light industrial development that relies on arterial street access and visibility.”

The site is already stripped and graded from vegetation, according to the report.

Brian Kinzie, a Town engineer, said “the intent of long-term [bicycle parking] is that it is secure – security is the primary concern – whereas with short-term [bike] parking we’re looking for convenience, primarily.”

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